Hi and welcome to the first installment of my weekly column here at LongIsland.com. Since Auto Racing is not a well known in the New York Metro area, I'm here to clear up some preconceived notions about the sport and to educate you about what really is this sport called Auto Racing.
Many of you I assume have at least glanced at this thing or have taken a look at Auto Racing either on TV, magazines, or the newspapers. If you know who Dale Jarrett, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, and Steve Park are, you are most likely familiar with a form of Auto Racing called NASCAR Winston Cup, the major leagues of Stock Car Racing.
Stock Car Racing means basically a stock appearing racecar for these cars are anything but stock for most type of stock cars. Most have highly modified carburetored engines with a fabricated chassis and body. Stock cars include a variety of different classes of cars and series, each with their different rules and characteristics, but the one thing that is common is that they are stock appearing.
A NASCAR Winston Cup Chevrolet Monte Carlo and a NASCAR Busch Series Chevrolet Monte Carlo may look very similar, but slight differences such as engines, wheelbases, and other nuances make the series what it is. As a general rule, the lower key a series is, the less powerful it is, and for the most part better handling. Lower key series tend to be for the less experienced as NASCAR Winston Cup is the upper echelon of Stock Car Racing.
Ok, what are these different series? Well, there are a ton of Stock Car Racing circuits out there each with their own characteristics. The NASCAR Winston Cup Series is what is known to most and is probably the most recognized, as it should be for these are the best in the country. The NASCAR Winston Cup Series travels around the country from California to New York, from Florida to New Hampshire. Winston Cup stops near the Long Island region are Dover (DE) Downs International Speedway, Pocono (PA) Raceway, New Hampshire International Speedway, and Watkins Glen International, New York's largest sporting event. Winston Cup cars contain 358 cubic inch V-8 engines, with a 110 wheelbase and weigh in at 3,400 pounds. Steve Park, hailing from East Northport, NY is a Long Islander who is currently active in Winston Cup competition.
If Winston Cup skill level were in comparison to Major League Baseball, the following leagues would be considered Triple-A Baseball. The NASCAR Busch Series runs on quite a few of the same tracks that Winston Cup does, with other venues as well around the country. Local stops for the NASCAR Busch Series consist of Dover (DE) Downs International Speedway, Nazareth (PA) Speedway, New Hampshire International Speedway, and Watkins Glen (NY) International. Many consider this to be the stepping-stone into NASCAR Winston Cup Racing as many venues are the same, and the competition is just as fierce if not more so.
Winston Cup racers will also venture into this series to gain experience or more seat time at tracks they are not accustomed to or having difficulty at. While Cup cars and Busch cars look pretty much the same, wheelbase wise, they are shorter and weight wise they are less. However, as result of rule changes during this past off-season, the engines are very similar. Steve Park raced in the NASCAR Busch Series to gain experience for Winston Cup a couple years back and won Rookie of the Year in 1997.
A step between Triple-A Baseball and Double-A would be the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, which features trucks such as Chevrolet Silverados, Dodge Rams, and Ford F-Series, all doing battle on racetracks nationwide. These trucks race at pretty much the same venues that the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series do, with some exceptions. Local venues for the trucks include Dover (DE) Downs International Speedway, Nazareth (PA) Speedway, and New Hampshire International Speedway. Believe it or not, the Trucks are very similar to the NASCAR Winston Cup cars internally, however their aerodynamics are very different which tend to give the trucks a very different feel at the big tracks. Steve Park has also raced NASCAR Craftsman Trucks in the past.
What would be Double-A in baseball, NASCAR Touring divisions, ARCA, ASA, and USAR Hooters Pro Cup would be the racing equivalent. NASCAR Touring consists of quite a few divisions which race mainly within a region. Our regional representatives would be the NASCAR Busch North Series and NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series.
The Busch North Series features cars nearly identical to their national cousins, the NASCAR Busch Series. The two major differences are Busch North Series engines are less powerful and the tires they run are bias-ply rather than the radials Busch Series uses. The Busch North Series runs at nearby tracks such as Stafford (CT) Motor Speedway, Thompson (CT) Speedway, Waterford (CT) Speedbowl, Holland (NY) International Speedway, Chemung (NY) Speedrome, Nazareth (PA) Speedway, Lime Rock (Lakeville, CT) Park, and Watkins Glen (NY) International. Steve Park also ran Busch North in the past and current stars from the Long Island area include Bryon Chew of Southampton, John Cerbone of City Island and Doug Krpata of Farmingdale.
The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series cars are probably the most unique in stock car racing as they look like nothing else stock-car wise. They are open-wheeled (no fenders), low slung, and very unique. Cars they resemble are Chevrolet Cavaliers, Chevrolet Monte Carlos, Pontiac Grand Prix, Ford Mustangs, Ford Escorts, Dodge Stealths, Dodge Stratus, and Plymouth Lasers. This series is the oldest in NASCAR and has a rich and storied history. In comparison to a Winston Cup car, they are a lot faster and better handling and provide some of the best racing in the country. Local stops for the Featherlite Modified Series include Stafford (CT) Motor Speedway, Thompson (CT) Speedway, Waterford (CT) Speedbowl, Holland (NY) International Speedway, Chemung (NY) Speedrome, Nazareth (PA) Speedway, Lime Rock (Lakeville, CT) Park, and Long Island's Riverhead Raceway. Early in Steve Park's career, he was a regular in the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series. Current Long Islanders racing on the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series are Tom Baldwin of East Patchogue, Howie Brode of Bay Shore, Mike Ewanitsko of North Babylon, Tony Ferrante, Jr. of Franklin Square, and Fred Vordermeier Jr. of West Hempstead.
The Automobile Racing Club of America (or ARCA for short) also is another "double-A" series. ARCA races around the country with their primary focus in the Midwest. ARCA has probably the most diverse schedule as they race on short tracks, super-speedways, road courses, and dirt tracks. Local ARCA stops include Pocono (PA) Raceway and Watkins Glen (NY) International. ARCA cars are very similar to Winston Cup Cars with the only difference being age, as ARCA cars tend to be used Cup cars. Many Winston Cup veterans have ARCA experience and Winston Cup rookies sometimes run ARCA races to gain experience at tracks they have little familiarity with.
The Single-A leagues of Auto Racing are the local short tracks around the country, where EVERY racer in Winston Cup has gotten his start. Our local track is a short fast quarter-mile known as Riverhead Raceway, which is on route 58, and is easily accessible from the L.I.E. The exit is the last exit on Long Island's famous I-495. The diversity of cars at local tracks is astounding and Riverhead is no different. Riverhead has six weekly divisions along with six monthly divisions as well. The six weekly divisions include the tailgate brigade known as the Super Pro Trucks, the entry-level full-sized stock cars of yesteryear known as Blunderbusts, the exotic street stocks known as Chargers, the fendered fleet known as Late Models, and the open-wheeled Modifieds. Six divisions not on such a regular schedules, are the entry-level Enduros (full-size, 4-cylinder, and Truck divisions), Rollover contests, spectator one-on-one drags, and everyone's favorite, demolition derbies.
If you got any bit of interest in racing, you should come out on the Island and feel the thunder, smell the octane, and see the beauty of stock car racing. You won't regret it.
This end's this edition of Auto Racing on Long Island. If you got any questions about Auto Racing on Long Island or Auto Racing in general, be free to contact me at LongIslandJam@hotmail.com or visit
for all your Long Island Racing News needs.
See ya at the races!